EDF Energy outlines safety improvements to nuclear operations
One year after Fukushima, EDF Energy reflects on lessons learnt and measures taken
It is one year since the earthquake and tsunami caused massive destruction and killed thousands of people in Japan.
The natural disaster also led to the nuclear incident at Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant.
Since then EDF Energy has undertaken a number of reviews of the safety of its eight UK nuclear power stations to ensure any lessons from Japan are implemented.
Immediately following the events at Fukushima, EDF Energy pledged to work with the Office for Nuclear Regulation and its Chief Inspector Dr Mike Weightman as it carried out an independent review of the safety of its UK operations.
Furthermore, at the request of the European Union, the company also carried out stress tests on its power plants.
Dr Weightman concluded that the ‘UK nuclear facilities have no fundamental safety weaknesses’. Nonetheless, along with Dr Weightman, EDF Energy has identified a number of steps that can further improve these strong safety standards.
EDF Energy, along with its partner Centrica, is committed to implementing all of Dr Weightman’s recommendations.
EDF Energy Chief Executive Vincent de Rivaz said: “March 11 is the anniversary of an earthquake and tsunami which killed thousands of people. At this time, our thoughts are with those who were affected. We are fortunate in this country not to have seismic activity on the same scale.
“Nonetheless it is vital to learn the lessons from the nuclear event caused by the tsunami.
“Looking back, a year on, it is clear nuclear in the UK is even safer because of what has been done.
“We have put in place a range of measures which further strengthen our safety. It will cost us money. But we will be even safer. These enhancements, and others, will be implemented over the next few years, at a total cost of around £200m, in addition to the £300m that we already spend each year on maintenance.
“Public and political opinion has undergone its own ‘stress test’ and has been maintained. Public support for new nuclear has recovered from the dip caused by Fukushima and is at its highest level ever.
“This was achieved because of two factors. First, the wide, informed and thorough debate on nuclear power that had already taken place before Fukushima, and, second, the measured response by Government, regulator, industry, and the public after Fukushima.
“This included in particular the transparent, fact-based and comprehensive report by Dr Weightman, which concluded that the UK’s existing nuclear power stations are safe and that we could move ahead with our new build plans.”
Immediately after the incident, EDF Energy implemented an action plan that included checks by our station directors of back-up systems over and above normal audit processes; Refresher training for employees on use of our back-up systems; and carrying out a review of our Emergency Plan, with particular focus on the impact on infrastructure disturbance.
Since then EDF Energy has identified some further broad areas for improvement in the future, including:
- Purchasing of additional back-up equipment and materials to be stored off site.
- Enhancements to current building and site infrastructure to improve the robustness of protection
- Improvement to current emergency arrangements and severe accident management liaison with emergency services and other stakeholders to improve current plan
- In addition to this, the company has taken steps to further increase its transparency on nuclear issues. These include:
- Launching an operational status website for our stations, updated daily.
- Initiating a forum of key stakeholders to understand their concerns and issues
- Running focus groups to hear the views of the general public.
- Developing a programme to open new visitor centres at our plants in 2012
- Launching a new website to inform and educate on energy issues at www.edfenergy.com/energyfuture/
The reports for the stress tests on EDF Energy’s plants are publicly available and can be viewed at http://www.edfenergy.com/stresstest